The sniggering that Mark Dayton was essentially buying himself another job in last fall’s gubernatorial election is mitigated somewhat by the news that he was actually second in terms of the amount of personal, family money thrown at the race. Eric Roper in the Strib reports: “The top spender? According to campaign finance reports released Tuesday, Matt Entenza, who finished third in the DFL primary, doled out $5.7 million over two years — more than $5 million of it from his own pocket. Much of it went to advertising. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton lent his campaign about $4 million and spent $5.3 million before Election Day. He raised another $1.8 million for the December recount; most of that came from unions. Dayton raised more during the recount than he did during his entire campaign. Republican candidate Tom Emmer, meanwhile, raised and spent about $2.9 million over his two-year campaign.” Entenza’s “own pocket,” of course, had juuust a little to do with wife Lois Quam’s years at UnitedHealth.
All that talk by Dayton during the campaign about creating new gambling revenues will apparently have to wait. MPR’s Tom Scheck reports that Dayton will not go there for the next biennium: “Dayton said during the race for governor that he would support a state-owned and -operated casino at the Mall of America or the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and use the revenues it generates to help balance the state’s budget. But Dayton is now backing away from those claims. He told reporters that his budget plan will not include gambling.” Kind of makes you wonder if the local tribes got some one-on-one time with the new guy.
Predictably, the casino industry is not happy. Casino Gambling Web fumes: “[A]fter having won the election, Dayton is backtracking on his casino support. While not ruling out a new casino in the future, the governor believes there is not enough time this session to create the law necessary to include gaming revenue in this years budget. … The Minnesota Vikings and their fans may be the biggest losers if the new casino is not approved by legislators. The Vikings are looking for a way to get a new stadium built, and adding a casino to pay for the stadium is a plan that many lawmakers have endorsed.”
Eventually a Strib editorial gets around to agreeing with Dayton’s bonding ideas: “New building projects ought to be authorized when they have clear regional or statewide significance, are affordable under the state’s debt-service guidelines, and are projected to advance the state’s prosperity or quality of life. The opportunity to build when borrowing and construction costs are at historic lows, as they are now, should be considered as well. When taxpayers can get a bargain on a worthy project, they should. That’s the test this page recommends to DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature’s GOP majorities as they consider whether the 2011 Legislature should authorize new public building projects, financed with 20-year state general obligation bonds.” In other words … “what Dayton said.”
Sixty-four charter schools are in danger of closing unless they can find an “authorizer” to monitor their finances and student performance. Sarah Lemagie at the Strib writes: “State law requires every charter school to be paired with a school district, college or nonprofit that monitors its finances and student performance. Under legislation passed in 2009, these ‘authorizers’ have until June 30 to demonstrate that they’re capable of keeping closer tabs on the schools than was previously required. But some authorizers, unwilling or unable to take on the task, plan to cut ties with their schools. Others have seen their applications rejected by the Minnesota Department of Education. Still others aren’t eligible under the new law, or are still getting ready to apply.”
A Finance and Commerce story by Brian Johnson wades through a lot of the statistics related to that startling $155 million renovation price tag for the Target Center: “In December 2009, the city unveiled a Target Center capital improvement plan that envisioned nearly $50 million worth of projects during the next 20 years to keep the building ‘at a baseline level of quality.’ But the building hasn’t been ignored. Since 2003, the arena has seen $14 million worth of projects, including seating and scoreboard updates and miscellaneous building improvements, including the first green roof to be installed on a North American arena. And the building continues to draw customers, despite its flaws. A year ago, an entertainment trade publication ranked Target Center as the top arena in the Twin Cities and No. 14 nationwide based on tickets sold for events in 2009, according to a press release from AEG. The arena is the 28th-busiest building in the United States and it generates $10 million to $15 million in taxes each year, according to the city.”
If you find yourself wistful for the days of Tim Pawlenty, you can always dial up Wisconsin’s new governor, Scott Walker, a man very much after our former leader’s heart. Facing a budget deficit half the size of the one Pawlenty left here, Walker is zeroing in on familiar targets to set the books right. A story from the Appleton area postcrescent.com says: “Walker promised to target public employee benefits and Medicaid programs in order to deal with Wisconsin’s budget shortfall, but offered few details in his first State of the State speech on Tuesday about how he will plug the $3.2 billion gap. … Walker also said Medicaid, which is projected to be $174 million short in the current budget year, was unsustainable — but he didn’t say what he would change.”
Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson thought it would be a good idea to see what Michele Bachmann thought of the crisis in Egypt. (Did their founding fathers work as “tirelessly” as ours to stamp out slavery?) She reports: “I called to get a statement on Egypt from Minnesota Representative and House Tea Party Caucus founder Michele Bachmann and was told by her press secretary that, in spite of numerous requests, she wouldn’t be giving any interviews this week while she concentrates on district work. What a break, as Bachmann would be unlikely to follow the Republican leadership in praising President Obama’s handling of the crisis in Cairo. [House Speaker John] Boehner, since lifting the speaker’s gavel, has had to spend too much time managing Bachmann, who can draw cameras with the lift of a penciled eyebrow. So her silence since last week’s renegade response to the president’s State of the Union speech must sound golden.”
Derek Wallbank’s story here on MinnPost, wherein Ms. Bachmann worries that “naked pictures” of her could be passed from TSA airport screeners onto the Internet is, as you’d expect, getting a lot of buzz. I mean all you have to say is “naked pictures,” right? Nick Wing at The Huffington Post writes: “Despite assurances from the TSA that it is impossible for the screening practice to result in the revealing images being broadcast publicly, Bachmann has come up with her own alternative. MinnPost reports that “she’d prefer U.S. airport security mimic Israeli airport security, which includes multiple face-to-face interviews with airport security and passengers and a form of profiling with extra attention paid to those whose behavior suggests they’re not just at the airport to catch a flight. As part of the her proposed $400 billion-plus worth of spending cuts, Bachmann has also suggested privatizing the TSA.”